My new office

A month flew by (literally, it’s hard to believe that it’s already more than a month) since I started my new position at UIUC/NCSA. I really like it. We found a good apartment, Urbana-Champaign is much better than I imagined (the campus is really beautiful, especially at night), and the best is the really really good supply of fresh fruits and vegetables (shopping is more interesting here than in Bloomington due to the larger choice). I also like my office (I’m still not really settled down, but I’ll get there eventually). Here are some pictures:

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my desk

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the view from my office is the (very nice) parking garage

And the best thing here is that there is a fitness room just 40m from my office! It has a lot of nice weight-lifting equipment and even a shower (perfect):
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shower

IND->DCA->IND->DCA->LGA->Blizzard->IND

Well, I had another crazy trip last week. I attended two meetings, one in Washington and another one in Poughkeepsie (yeah, I bet you don’t know where that is, it’s an IBM research lab close to Fishkill and about 1:30hrs north of New York City). So I flew to Washington and attended the first meeting (I learned that some subway stations close at 9pm without announcement). Then I flew back to IND because I already had this flight booked and it was cheaper to fly from IND to LGA (through DCA) than from DCA to LGA directly. Doesn’t make any sense but I could sit three hours in lovely airplanes before I arrived back at exactly the same terminal where I left in Washington. Anyway, I made it to LGA, La Guardia New York at 11pm in horrible rain. I got my car, got lost in the Bronx for 30 minutes and then made my way towards Poughkeepsie. The drive was horrible, I saw 30 cm of snow falling in just one hour (amazing) and I barely made it to the hotel before getting stuck.

Well, the meeting was great but I’m not supposed to report on this one (publicly).

Then, on Friday, I had another appointment at IBM TJ Watson, about 45 minutes away. But it kept snowing and Poughkeepsie lost power (they had candles in the hotel :-)). I left two hours early for IBM and barely made it on time, just to learn that TJ Watson was closed and our meeting was one hour late.

The blizzard was strong, all public transit stopped working, all schools and public institutions were closed and most companies too. The roads were barely passable, many freeways were closed — and I didn’t know where to go (I only had the rental car map which was kind of useless, however, my N810 really rescued me there!). Here are some impressions from the drive:

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My rental car – I got a nice VW Beetle. Very powerful and the traction control was really worth it (I was the fastest on snowy streets).

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The main streets (Highway 9) in the morning. All trucks were stranded.

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The freeway entrance (I-84) – wow!

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I-84 so far. Looks kind of free, isn’t it? Well, besides all those stranded trucks.

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Well, that’s the end ot I-84: a cop who told me that the freeway was closed :-(. Going back one mile in reverse is no fun (especially when you got cars coming from behind and the danger of getting stuck).

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Here is a stuck and abandoned (and snowed in) car đŸ™‚

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Man, and those local people really don’t know how to drive. Most of them went with 20 mph. I was going 40-50 :-). Passing was kind of dangerous though :-/.

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Simply beautiful. Notw how much snow was on the trees and how far they bent over.

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Well, and many of them were just lying on the streets. This was rather dangerous too ;-).

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This was on freeway 232 – the tree was on two of the three lanes!! I nearly crashed into it.

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Another big one on two lanes.

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That’s how virtually all street signs looked like – really annoying if you don’t know where you are?

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The entrance to IBM TJ Watson.

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Well, this whole drive reminded me of GTA IV (thanks again to Microsoft for the xbox 360). Especially the Whitestone bridge in the Bronx … like GTA, but it was $5.50 toll instead of $5 ;-).

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A departure monitor in the La Guardia airport — 90% of all flights canceled.

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Another one. That was bad.

But I heard the announcement that a plane that was delayed from the day before was leaving in five minutes to Indianapolis. I took my chance, ran to the gate agent and asked to be put on standby for this one. He told me the flight was full and I would have to hope that somebody didn’t show up. Well, and there were about a dozen people on standby waiting for their name to be called (I came last). So one guy wasn’t there — and they called my name (I was the one with highest status in line ;-)) and I got on the flight. 1.5 hours before my scheduled departure (this flight was canceled though). And I made it home, still one hour before my scheduled arrival :-).

Some of my colleagues who chose to fly out of the closer but much smaller Westchester Airport were delayed by two days.

Moving to Champaign

Didn’t you have that point in your life where you wanted to move to a city that sounds like a bottle full of alcohol? Yeah, that’s what we did. As mentioned before, we found a beautiful apartment near downtown Champaign and now we had to haul all our stuff there. My first plan was to take a pickup but Natalia fortunately convinced me to rent a moving truck. We chose Budget (mostly due to the unbeatable price of $170 for the one-way rental including unlimited miles and a rich set of insurance options). We got a 16 foot truck, well, if you’re like me then you have no idea what that actually means. For all Europeans: it’s a two-ton truck (gross total weight 8 tons), so very nice for moving:
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Well, the truck was actually not the first part. We started with collecting all the c**p, aehem, nice things, I collected over the years in the living room:
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Well, the living room wasn’t even enough …
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Natalia helped with, aehem, did most of the packing (especially the numerous kitchen utensils):
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Fortunately, we had some friends helping us to move (especially for the heavy stuff like the pull-out couch!):
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Well, the truck was “well packed” :-):
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We then drove up to Champaign (I planned to go through Indy to avoid curvy and bumpy roads, but I did not include I-465 in my calculation — I-465 is a completely broken mess and nearly destroyed my mirror!!!).

Well, we arrived good and nothing was damaged :-). We only had to buy a new shower curtain and some basic things to get started (total about $50). We’re still getting settled but I conclude that the move was a big success :-). Actually, Champaign is not as bad as it sounds. It offers many more and more exciting shopping opportunities than Bloomington. It also has a somewhat real (but unnecessary complicated) bus system. It seems pretty decent in general.

Btw., did you see all the snow on the pictures? Yes, it was about -10 degrees when we moved but that didn’t turn out to be a problem. It was not really cold after carrying all the stuff around :-). We started and 9:30am and finished at 6:30pm (finished meaning that we had all the stuff out of the truck).

From IU to UI

Yes, now it’s official, I’m moving to Urbana-Champaign to work at the University of Illinois (UI). It’s somewhat a funny change not only because of the IU to UI thing but also with regards to many other things. I’ll be working as a Research Associate at NCSA, or better in the Blue Waters’ Directorate. I’ll work for Bill Kramer and with Marc Snir and Bill Gropp as my scientific advisors.

It was a very tough move because I must say that IU is the best place that I worked at so far and Andrew is by far the best boss I had and it seems hard to imagine a better one :-). Well, but I couldn’t stay forever at IU after I graduated more than a year ago :-(. And it will be a big honor for me to work at UI on Blue Waters, the fastest, or at least most useful/powerful supercomputer that was ever built.

We’ve even managed to find a very nice apartment in Champaign in a single day yesterday (the rush was necessary because I came back on Thursday from the MPI Forum and will travel to Oak Ridge on Monday through Wednesday and I will start at UI on Feb. 1st). The housing market in the U-C area is fortunately open. We made it and that’s most important! We’re planning to move next Friday/Saturday! I’ve already my first meetings and travels scheduled :-).

My new office!

It took me quite a while to mention my new office. The main reason is that I wanted a picture and it too until today to get one :-). I was moved to a really beautiful office (out of the student lab)! This alone offset the hassle to graduate! People who know me know how picky I am with regards to offices. Here are some pictures:

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My desk. Yes, I do have three computers in Lindley Hall (and three monitors).

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The fabulous view from my window!

Commencement (finally)

Yes, I had my commencement yesterday. I know, I got the Ph.D. six months ago, however, I didn’t have the time to visit last year’s commencement but still wanted to do it. I didn’t know what it would be like but it’s actually kind of fun (my roommate said “everybody looks like in Harry Potter” – and she was right). I am now officially endorsed (by the President of Indiana University) to carry the title “Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science”. It’s funny, my advisor Prof. Lumsdaine had the honor to “hood” me officially (he montaged the big hood thing on my back which apparently is the sign of a Ph.D.).

Here’s a picture of my advisor and me in the ceremony’s apparel:
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The best part (the doctoral hood in cream&crimson (IU’s white&red)) is unfortunately on the back:
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The quintessence is that it’s much much cooler than in Germany where I received my Diplom (cf. Masters) in an old office from the secretary. Even winning the Best Student Award was much less spectacular (and I had to bring my own clothes). Here is a picture from the award ceremony – on the right is the Chancellor (cf. President) of TU Chemnitz:
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I’ll try to get a picture from IU’s president in full apparel :).

I’m usually not politically active

… but this is so obvious …. I mean I will loose all my faith into the American people, the society and Democracy in general, if anybody but Obama is the next president.

And I already lost faith in US foreign politics … how can one be so stupid, planning to build a “defense missile” station in Poland and then wonder if the Russians think about reanimating their base in Cuba. What the heck is wrong with those people? And the Cuba-crisis was also never foreseeable … no, no, no, there were no rocket stations in Turkey. Fefe also has some nice comments (partially German) on this.

After skimming parts of Legacy of Ashes, I’m convinced that the “Intelligence” in CIA must have a very different meaning in (US) English than the German word “Intelligenz”.